About the Program

As a hub of learning, teaching, and thinking among a community of formerly incarcerated people in New York City, the Harlem Microcollege provides a broad foundational education for students who aspire to careers in advocacy or lives of robust civic agency.

Read the Press Release

Arts, Sciences, and Advocacy

At the Bard Microcollege for Just Community Leadership, advocacy and leadership development are at the heart of the curriculum. Effective advocacy for social change requires a grounding in the complex systems–historical, anthropological, political–that bring about injustice. Thus, students at the Harlem Microcollege can expect to explore the history of labor struggles and civil rights movements, critical race theory, economic theory, and the sociology of mass incarceration.

At the same time, Bard College does not view the arts or humanities as luxuries. The college fervently believes that all students, even passionate activists and those focused on advancing their careers, have the right to study a broad range of disciplines, and to follow their personal curiosity into fields they may not have known they would love. In many ways that freedom is the meaning of the liberal arts (liberal, from the Latin liber, meaning “free”), and it should not be the province of a privileged few.

Therefore, students at the Harlem Microcollege study everything college students study at liberal arts institutions the world over: literature, philosophy, anthropology, art, science, writing, mathematics, sociology, economics, history, and more.


Sample courses offered at Bard Microcolleges include:
  • Neoliberalism and Its Critics
  • Feminism and Modern Political Thought
  • Race and Representation in Art Since the Harlem Renaissance
  • Middle Eastern Modernities
  • Migration and Diaspora in a Global Perspective
  • Getting Schooled in America
  • Homelands and Native Lands
  • Poetry of Struggle and Transformation
  • Introduction to the History of Science
  • Critical Race and Ethnic Studies: An Introduction
  • Revolution in Modern Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Contemporary Literature of the African Diaspora
  • Arts and Activism, Against the Grain: African American Women’s History
  • Citizen Science
  • Statistics for Everyday Life

More about The Harlem Microcollege Partners

In a crucial moment for criminal justice reform, the Bard Microcollege For Just Community Leadership deploys the expertise and resources of three leading institutions in a community-based setting to cultivate leaders, decision-makers, and advocates of the future.

Just Leadership USA

JustLeadership USA Logo.

JustLeadershipUSA, a national non-profit, is led by directly impacted people and is dedicated to decarcerating the United States by educating, elevating and empowering the people and communities most impacted by systemic racism to drive, amplify, and sustain the kinds of policy reform that builds thriving, sustainable and healthy communities. We amplify the power of directly impacted people by investing in their voices, so they have the tools and resources to self-organize and advocate for themselves and their families. Together we build an equitable, fair, and just U.S.


College & Community Fellowship

College & Community Felllowship Logo.

Founded in 2000, College & Community Fellowship (CCF) envisions a world where all people, regardless of criminal justice histories, have equitable access to opportunity. As one of the first organizations to focus on access to higher education for justice-involved women, CCF fills a unique niche in supporting women while they obtain college degrees and leadership skills that promote long-term self-efficacy and civic engagement. With work grounded in racial, gender, and economic justice through partnerships in the academic, policy, government, and grassroots activism communities, CCF invests in access to opportunity for those most harmed by mass criminalization.

Visit CCF

Bard Prison Initiative

BPI Bard Prison Initiative Logo.

Since 1999, the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) has been a national leader in restoring and expanding college opportunity to incarcerated people nationwide. Nationally, BPI has cultivated over a dozen other college-in-prison programs through the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison; it is well known for its Debate Union’s competitions against Morehouse College, the West Point Academy and Harvard, and Cambridge Universities, as well as the PBS docu-series College Behind Bars, directed by Lynn Novick and executive produced by Ken Burns.

In 2016, BPI expanded its work redefining the place of higher education to enroll traditionally excluded students in community-based settings.

Visit BPI